Protecting your Money Mustache from Spendy Friends

Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache have just returned from a very spendy night on the town. The night and the people were lots of fun. But almost equally fun was the sheer amazement and marvel I felt at just how crazy the spending habits of our modern culture are, and how they continue to drift further into the abyss of fantasyland.

Let’s start with the facts. We went out for dinner, drinks, desserts and some live music in downtown Ottawa, which is Canada’s capital. This city has spent most of the last 20 years in a series of long economic booms, and with the latest one it’s starting to look downright glitzy. High-tech companies have been flooding in throughout the 1990s and 2000s, bringing tens of thousands of high-paying primary jobs. The federal government maintains much of its offices here, adding competition for workers. And an irrational real-estate run-up has been going for the past four years, inflating everyone’s paper wealth and causing predictable results. The whole city has sprouted that telltale bristle of construction cranes building highrise office and condo towers. To the untrained eye, it sings “prosperity!”, although through my own recently-burned shades I see “Real-estate bubble about to pop and cause a huge recession!”.

Regardless of the future, what we have right now is a big party. Beautiful and fancy restaurants are everywhere, and they’re all packed, with lineups just to get a table. Audis and Beemers idle slowly by in the dense party district, their LED headlamps illuminating the broad torrents of scantily clad legs as they flow across the crosswalks. Designer clothing is stretched tightly across butts and biceps as the bass pumps, jazz floats, and credit cards swipe.

So we show up at the restaurant, and we order ourselves some treats, because it’s a special occasion. This is an Italian place, and I don’t eat bread and pasta anymore, so I get a nice exotic type of salad and the biggest, darkest glass of beer that they can pour. Good times ensue, and I enjoy my food. My tablemates also enjoy their food, appetizers, entrees, various drinks, and desserts.

The conversation and the laughs are great, although the noisy environment makes it a little hard to hear properly. After an hour or so I’m getting restless from sitting still so long, but thankfully it’s time for the bill.

One of the great things about Canada is that it is traditional for restaurants to deliver a separate bill to each diner by default. (In the US, servers routinely mash everything into one bill and leave the people to sort it out for themselves). So I get my own bill:

Fancy Salad: $16
Overpriced Beer: $7
Tax & Tip: $7
Total: $30.

Add in Mrs. MM’s similar meal and we’re out about $60 as a couple. Then we bought coffee and dessert at another place, spent a few dollars at the pub with the live music, and finally threw the $7.00 we had set aside for bus fare into the car cupholder of a friend who generously ended up driving us home at the end of the night. All in all, a hundred dollars might have gone up in smoke that night. Pretty expensive when you compare it to the $1.00 per meal ideal presented in the Grocery bill article, but still well within what we can afford because hey, we’re retired now.

But we were probably some of the cheapest eaters in the restaurant that night. Looking at the entrees page, I didn’t see a single dish under $20. The wine menu stretched into the triple digits. Appetizers, desserts, and coffees were readily available to inflate the tab further.

So you’d think that a restaurant like this would only be frequented by very wealthy people. Surely everyone there was already financially independent – free from car loans, home loans, with a ‘Stash sizeable enough to fund basic living expenses AND a job they loved which provided enough money to just throw around on hundred-dollar meals.. right?

But no.. those weren’t the people in the restaurant. There were my friends, none of whom are retired, and many of whom even wish they had more savings or lower debts! There were other people of all ages packed into the place, and I’d be willing to bet that less than 10% of them could truly afford to eat there, in my own strict definition of the word.

The problem is, the Mustachian definition of reasonable spending (relative to wealth) is pretty different from the average person’s definition. If WE ran the world, there would still be decadent restaurants out there for truly wealthy people, but people still stuck in cubes and trying to get ahead would choose more affordable activities for themselves.

Alas, most of us still have non-Mustachian friends, and we don’t want to throw them away just for their spending habits. Plus, there is still some fun to be had in the odd restaurant meal or other indulgence. Therefore, you and I sometimes need to compromise in the area of expensive socialization. It’s called Protecting your Money Mustache from your Spendy Friends, and it’s pretty fun once you get into it.

1: Understand the Big Picture
One of the key differences between being Frugal (good) and being Cheap (bad) in how you handle special occasions. A frugal person may have no problem dropping $50 or $100 on a good time with friends. A cheap person will feel uncomfortable and start looking at his or her feet with even the slightest and rarest of expenditures. The key is in understanding the effect of any spending over the course of a full year, then over 10 years.

For example, the Mustache family enjoyed the recent Ottawa blowout, but we can hardly even remember the LAST time we spent so much on an evening. If you assume it happens twice a year, we’re out $200 per year or $2700 every ten years, assuming some compounding. It’s solid money, but affordable. But many people I know engage in some sort of downtown happy hour once a week or more, at a cost of $5200 per year or $71,000 every ten. That’s serious money, and it was obviously NOT affordable to anyone who ends up ten years out of school and has less than $71,000 in positive net worth to their name. (Because this implies you spent more on restaurants than the combined value of everything else you own in life!). Many of the other patrons of the fancy restaurant that night were surely in that boat.

2: Take the lead in Planning
Why do non-rich people plan their social events at expensive restaurants anyway? Is it because those restaurants are the only way to have fun? Is it because they hate the idea of becoming wealthy? Is it because they’re all idiots?

No on all counts. It’s simply a habit everyone has gotten themselves into. One person suggests “Restaurant!”, the rest of them agree because it’s easier to agree than disagree, and the plan is made.

You can override the expensive planning habit by designing more of the events yourself. Dinner or drinks at a rotating series of your own places, a group bike ride, walk, skateboard, or rollerblade event (invent a novel destination), or a meetup in a public park for pick-up soccer or a fitness workout on the kids’ play structure. I highly recommend orchestrating an old-school Long-Jump competition if there is a sand pit. For inclement weather, get (or make) yourself a copy of Settlers of Catan.

Find a way to throw a Group Walk into any gathering you design – even if it’s just a trip to the beer store or a lap around a few blocks of your neighborhood. Similarly, minimize the unnecessary use of cars (don’t organize a hike 60 miles from home and then say “Everyone can just meet out there at the trailhead!”).

Besides making you and all of your friends richer, you’ll be shifting your group activities from consumption (of needless empty calories and booze), to production (of muscles, fitness, and overall mental wellbeing). They’ll also have more fun.

If you’ve never tried it before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how willing people are to follow your lead. Most people just go along with whatever is planned for them. On the Ottawa night mentioned above, the Mrs. and I managed to get the friends to replace some of their bar-hopping with a walking tour of the university campus, which stirred up many old memories. Later, I orchestrated a 2-mile roundtrip walk to the music venue (overriding the group’s original plan to drive there), which helped to burn off some of the beer and add memories to the evening.

Long ago, I took this concept to the extreme by stumbling into role of social planner for a large company’s newgrad and student workforce. With no special skills or social status, I was able to control the leisure activities of hundreds of people – simply because I was the one typing stuff into the computer. Nowadays, I’ve taken it even further and acquired a more powerful computer.. and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m using it to control YOU!

Therefore, you have the power to take control too.

3: Get the separate Tabs – Without Shame
In Ottawa, we attended the restaurant, but chose only reasonably-sized meals. Later that night, we joined everyone in a visit to the Gelato place, but shared a single small ice cream instead of each ordering a separate large one. Instead of a $4.00 Espresso drink, we each had a standard coffee at $1.75. Same amount of fun, lower amount of sugar, and lower bill.

But ordering less costly stuff for yourself only works if you are the one paying your own bill. So you may have to be bold and start a tradition that yes, everyone should pay for their own stuff when you go out. “Hey Guys, I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to get my own separate bill for this. These days, I’m eating and drinking less, and saving more, and this is part of it.”

If it’s a one-off occasion and/or your friends eat the same way you do, you can skip this step, as mentioned in the “Big Picture” point above. But otherwise, shared bills are just injustice, plain and simple. Do we wuss out and put up with injustice, or do we stand up for ourselves? Exactly.

4: Blame Mr. Money Mustache
If you’d like, you can invoke Mr. Money Mustache as part of your justification. I’ll gladly take any flak your friends would like to dish out. If you have intelligent enough friends, they might even see the light on the spot, and convert to Mustachianism.

OK, I’m being silly here, but you’d be surprised at how many people I meet these days who had never thought of financial independence in their lives, and yet have now adopted the idea wholeheartedly. It really is a neat and useful concept to understand, and yet almost nobody in the general public has even heard of it… yet*.

5: Embrace the DBP – Drink Booster Program
As a younger man, I was known for occasionally sporting a flask or other hidden container of party supplies, whether the venue be a bar, a restaurant, or a public park. This takes the young adult’s dilemma of “I want to get tipsy with my friends tonight, but can’t afford the $7.00 drinks”, and turns it on its head. You can whip out your flask containing the tasty beverage of your choice, and offer drink boosts not only to yourself, but to all of your friends. They can do the same. This will drastically cut the need to buy overpriced drinks, while adding an element of strategy and intrigue to the evening.

Similarly, you can turn any public park, beach, or campsite into a great meeting venue by bringing your own food and drink. Some public places attempt to post ridiculous “No Alcohol” rules, and although I don’t want to get anyone into trouble, I do heartily endorse giving a serious middle finger to conservative societal regulations like that one. Be an adult, don’t interfere with the enjoyment of others, leave the place cleaner than it was when you got there, and use incognito containers as needed… but we should all be able to eat and drink whatever the hell we want while out enjoying Nature.

6: Remember – it’s Being Together that Matters
One of the primary reasons we’re growing rich together here, is to free up more of our time for the rest of our lives. This time will in turn be spent in a mixture of family, friend, and solitary activities. So when planning events, your real goal is to trick people into spending time together. Eating has become our default one, because everybody knows how to eat. But there are so many other things that people can do together, many of which accomplish the goal of togetherness even better. Your job is to understand this, and focus on the people part, while designing out the expensive baggage that has unnecessarily attached itself to all of our social activities.

* Chance that a random person you meet on the street in the US or Canada is a Mustachian: about 1:4000**
** Update: that was accurate when this article was written in 2012. As of 2016, this number is closer to 1 in 100 in the general public, or 1 in 10 among software workers. So there’s one of us hiding in almost every crowd!

  • Debt Free Teen July 22, 2012, 1:12 pm

    I totally agree that getting your own check for dinner can save a lot of money. Not to mention a lot of hassle when trying to pay at the end of the night with a bunch of friends.

    Sometimes it can be awkward, but I have found most waiters don’t mind as long as everyone remembers to leave a tip!

    • John July 28, 2012, 7:27 am

      Tipping is a whole other area that is way overdone in USA. MMM should take it up but it will be controversial unless you think everyone in the country needs a tip at 20%.

      • Grant July 28, 2012, 7:47 am

        Tipping is only necessary in a country where the minimum wage is insuficient to actually survive on.

        Here in Australia, I am happy to tip for exceptional service, but I know that if it is as expected (refelcted in the price), then if I dont tip, people wont starve. If the service and/or food surpases my expectations, they get a tip.

        For the USA: this is how it should be!!!

      • Robin July 29, 2012, 6:17 pm

        Many servers in the US are only paid $2.15 an hour so I have no problem tipping 20%.

        • Derek R September 7, 2012, 2:50 pm

          The sad thing is that they are only paid $2.15 an hour because you are happy to tip 20% — and their employers know it.

          • Ben April 19, 2013, 8:00 am

            I don’t know if any of you have worked in a restaurant, but the wages are 2.15 or less, and with tax, your checks usually come out to about $0. ZERO. DOLLARS. If you’re going out to eat and can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out. And not tipping servers so that eventually the government forces server wages to be actual minimum wage is not a solution.

            • David May 28, 2013, 5:51 am

              Tipped employees’ wages by state.


            • Sandy G June 23, 2013, 6:28 am

              I’ve worked in restaurants in the US and the servers with $0 paychecks due to taxes were making upwards of $400 in tips while only working for about 25 hours every week, including backwork.

            • Maxwell C. December 28, 2013, 2:30 pm

              Anybody stupid enough to accept $2.15/hour (or any other starvation wages) for work is a moron. If they want higher wages, then they should organize themselves into unions and collectively demand such. If they’re too lazy to do that (which is what most other highly-paid professions have done)…then fuck ’em…it’s their choice. I won’t tip for shitty service. I had a $46 meal with my lady last night and tipped them a penny because the service was so bad.

            • Bearded Apprentice September 24, 2014, 7:34 pm

              You sound like a person that should stay at home and eat. Or spend a day in the shoes of the people you seem to know so much about. I was the bartender in college that ran to the cheap ass in the parking lot and said ” here you obviously need this more than I do”. Read up on the difference between being frugal and a cheap ass.

              *there are terrible servers that don’t deserve much. But to leave a penny on a $50 meal is embarrassingly sad.

            • Alex August 13, 2016, 11:37 pm

              Actually proper etiquette is 5% tip and ask for the manager. I would never leave a penny tip. This case I would have left 2.50

            • GuinnessPhish February 19, 2015, 10:02 am

              What was so bad about the service that you left a penny?

            • Mikey November 6, 2016, 6:04 pm

              Huh? When did payroll deductions become 100% for low income earners? Aren’t income taxes progressive in the States as well?

  • Lance July 22, 2012, 1:13 pm

    All very valid points. I can’t count the number of times someone mentions let’s go out to a restaurant but no one wants to pick where they go! All you have to do is suggest a different solution and I totally agree that most people will go along with it. If more people thought long term I think the big picture would cause a lot of those people that bar hop to spend a bit less but unfortunately I think they’re mostly live life in the moment type people.

    We normally don’t drop a ton of money going out but when we do it is for a special occasion, like you, and we don’t mind spending. It isn’t a normal occurrence and we don’t worry about it because we can afford it.

  • greg July 22, 2012, 1:37 pm

    1:4000? Don’t you think that’s a bit optimistic? ;-)

    This is definitely an interesting line to walk. I’ve found another way is to see how amenable others are to you simply enjoying company with snacks ($6 appetizer) instead of a $23 entree. Some friends have also gotten a tad used to me going to bars with them on rare occasions and simply not ordering anything or treating myself to a small soda.

    Although I must say that forcing myself to take the long perspective for rare occasions is probably a bit too hard …

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 22, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Haha.. that 1:4000 number was something I had to calculate recently to answer a question. One of my sisters was jogging with a coworker, who mentioned a neat blog she had been reading. My sister mentioned MMM, and her friend said, “Wait, your BROTHER is Mr. Money Mustache!?”. They came to me, wanting to know what the odds were of such an event happening.

      To calculate, I took the number of unique viewers over the past two months (140,000), multiplied by the typical percentage of repeat viewers (80%), multiplied by the percentage in US and Canada (80%). When you take the population of 375 million divided by the approximate number of “repeat North American Mustachians”, you get a number around 1:4000. Still a very rare breed, but we’re growing, which is why we need a new web server so badly! :-)

      • SteveinMaine July 22, 2012, 11:03 pm

        Just under 349 million combined total, per Ye Olde Wikipedia just now.

      • bogart July 23, 2012, 9:15 am

        OK, but, careless application of sampling in practice (as opposed to in theory). Taken as a given your math: “Chance that a random person you … [get paired with via a magical randomizing machine] in the US or Canada …” is a Mustachian works for your numbers, sure. But, “Chance that a random person you meet on the street in the US or Canada …” surely better (higher) than those you assign. The non-Mustachians are (a) in their cars; (b) in their offices or (c) sitting at home watching cable. Those on the street are far more likely than average to be Mustachian!

        • GregK July 23, 2012, 9:32 am

          Excellent, absolutely accurate point.

          On the other hand, “unique visitors” is a pretty flimsy measuring tool. I’m sure I come up at least twice (home and work computer), and likely more than that, since my work network changes its IP address fairly frequently… MM any thoughts? I don’t actually know much about the inner workings of traffic measurements.

      • Mr. TinyStache July 30, 2012, 5:26 pm

        For a new web server you might consider a combination of Amazon Web Services’ EC2 for your host (check out reserved instances for the best prices) and CloudFlare as a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to handle load. Proabably a bit more work than the Bluehost solution you are using right now but you have never seemed afraid of work.


      • Allen January 4, 2015, 8:24 pm

        What does that number look like now?

        Also the odds that someone you meet at the grocery store bike rack in the winter with a bike trailer of groceries is a mustachian seems to be about 100%.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 5, 2015, 11:41 am

          Good question Allen – the number of viewers as of late 2014 was about 400% of what it was back when I wrote that previous comments. So now we’re up to 1:1000 Mustachianism rate in North America.

          But I agree that the bike rack filter brings you a lot closer to 1:1. In fact, the last time I met a random person in exactly that situation, I asked and they were in fact a reader. Unfortunately, this particular scenario has only happened one time in the lifetime of this blog – that is how rare winter bike trailer grocery shoppers still are.

          • Juan January 5, 2015, 12:16 pm

            Some of us live close enough to walk, so the bike rack isn’t the only place to find us. I often see 1-2 people walking the sidewalk with grocery bags in their hands, in my neighborhood, whenever I go to the store…which is right around the corner from me.

  • Mike July 22, 2012, 1:43 pm

    Another great post. I liked particularly the section about planning more of the activities yourself, and then orienting them on activities that are both more frugal and more healthful (and, in reality, probably a lot more fun!). We’ve been doing a lot of barbecues lately and are leveraging yard activities like badminton, volleyball, the trampoline, etc., for fun, plus we’ve discovered that pulled pork (pork shoulder) is pretty cheap, feeds a lot of folks, is easy to make, and everyone thinks it is tasty!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 22, 2012, 2:34 pm

      Ahh, The Trampoline – one of the best inventions ever, regardless of your age. We should ALL be spending more time bouncing around. Just don’t let the corporations catch on, or there will be Adult Bounce Towns popping up with $25 cover, and dress codes, and lineups to get in.

      • Sean July 22, 2012, 2:49 pm

        FYI, such a place exists in my neck of the woods. Just silly but very popular.

        • Matt July 23, 2012, 6:02 am

          One of these is in my neck of the woods as well. A friend posted a picture of it just this weekend…gotta say it looked pretty interesting with trampolines all over the floors, walls, and at various angles with foam pits mixed in. I didn’t ask how much it cost but I would feel silly paying any amount to jump on a trampoline for an hour. lol

          • Mikey November 6, 2016, 6:10 pm

            Well, if you apply the King for a Day principle, paying for admission to such a place a couple times a year could make more sense than actually buying a trampoline. Especially if you and everyone you know doesn’t have the yard space for one.

      • Carlos December 17, 2013, 6:58 am

        They already have one….

      • kurt Lindner February 15, 2016, 3:43 am

        So just catching up on some older articles and came across this comment. So many indoor adult trampoline places everywhere (even here in Australia). It’s a “fitness” trend now! You can call yourself a visionary now!

    • Nate McStash September 30, 2013, 9:39 am

      Boy, and I have been impressed with the ammount of entertainment you can get out of a board game. Games like Small World, Ticket to Ride, or Power Grid can be bought used on Board Game Geeks for 30$. If you play a game 5 times at two hours each, it’s 3 dollars an hour for entertainment for you and your friends! Then you have a game you can re-sell or give away.

    • Suzanne Seale October 31, 2013, 6:54 pm

      I have been going to walks through meetup.com. There are so many great things to do that are almost all free. But there comes a time, as you state, where you need to design the meetup so it won’t be spendy.
      Now I have a meetup walking group on bigtent.com which is supported by ads.
      Meetup.com charges organizers $144/year.
      Our organizer gave up the group and I brought it over to the free site. I also post my walks on the meetup.com walking groups’ sites because they need events and event planners.
      Often walks can end up at the bar, but I give options of leaving after the walk, bringing a picnic lunch or going out with the group of breaking of and going with whoever you want. There are no rules for spending, only for walking.
      I do other events that are mostly free and as you MMM say, most people will just go along with what is planned.
      Instead of having to convince people one by one on the phone or by bulk email which turns into a million different conversations, I just post what I want to do and people sign up.
      It’s great because anyone who signs up, wants to do what you want to do. You may not know them but you will find you have a lot in common with them for the very reason that you have both chosen the exact same event to attend.

  • Joe Rodriguez July 22, 2012, 2:20 pm

    What a fantastic post. I regularly see folks drop serious $$$ on everyday, normal, run-of-the-mill (and yet, very ‘special’) occasions.

  • larrylivewire July 22, 2012, 2:40 pm

    This post hits close to home for me! As a recent college grad I’m at the point where the majority of my friends have started working high-paying, high-time-consuming jobs and blow off steam (and newly found income) by going out to what seems like an endless cycle of happy hours and expensive dinners simply because they are convenient and it is what “everybody does together”.

    I’ve taken a different route, trying to save all I can for the next few months while avoiding traditional employment, to fulfill my dream of moving out west to snowboard for a few months. It has been a struggle to know when to indulge and when to turn down dinner invitations. The “long perspective” idea helped put this into context for me.

    Also, I’m a big fan of the incognito container!!

  • mike crosby July 22, 2012, 3:49 pm

    As I get ready for another dinner out, this is my biggest peeve about frugality.

    Standard bill with tip is a minimum of $30. I’m vegan, so it’s quite standard–Mexican food–bean burrito, Chinese–veggie stir fry, American–soup and salad. And water is my choice of drink. Did a buffet a while ago and it cost over $100, and all I ate was beans and rice.

    Restaurants are a huge drain on spending, but for DW it’s her form of entertainment.

  • Allison July 22, 2012, 4:55 pm

    Thank you MMM! It is OK to assert yourself and ask for your own check, arrange less expensive activities, and only splurge on occasion. Probably because we are working on our own stash, I love it when friends are willing to try something different and assert themselves. It cracks me up when our friends throw an expensive idea out there and then make a comment about how my husband and I should be ok with it, or worse when some of our very over leveraged friends expect us to pick up more of the tab, because we “have money”. Umm, hello, we have been able to pay off our debts because we choose not to spend all of our funds on drinks and tickets. I have stopped trying to tell people about my thrifty ways because they just assume less debt plus extra cash equals a more luxurious lifestyle! I digress…great post!

  • rjack July 22, 2012, 5:27 pm

    MMM – Did the dinner friends know that you are retired? If so, are they curious, envious, uninterested, or something else?

    How do you refrain from preaching Mustachianism in that situation? It would be hard for me to bite my tongue the whole night.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 22, 2012, 7:16 pm

      There were at least one or two triple M readers at the table These are my wife’s friends from school. All of the friends from my side of the aisle know about the MMM identity, as I do tend to start preaching, if given a few drinks and then prodded a little.

      Most people who find out are moderately curious, but only about a quarter make major changes and eventually start reporting back with how they are beating me at my own game.

      • Dan July 23, 2012, 7:09 am

        Most “normal” people are probably more curious about this being a separate income stream than they are in implementing any of your ideas.

        This came up in the “grocery bill” post you linked to, but if anyone wants some assistance to cut down their frequency of eating out, I recommend getting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. You pay for your share up front, so you’ve made a financial commitment to preparing you own dinner months in advance. Once you see an heirloom tomato rot, you’ll do everything you can to use up the whole box every week. And obviously there’s the not-insignificant benefit that it’s way healthier than whatever else you were probably going to eat.

        Based on my personal experience only, I don’t necessarily agree that CSAs are cost-effective (compared to buying all those veggies individually) but it’s definitely cheaper than eating out.

  • Brian July 22, 2012, 6:17 pm

    Awesome post. The wife and I frequently share a meal when we are out with friends. At first our friends thought it was weird but after they realized that they were taking half their meal home when we would go out they started to see the light. Since we have begun to grow our money staches the wife and I try to host potlucks at our house every couple of weeks as this has reduced the amount of times we get asked to go out to fancy restaurants. Plus our house becomes the party house.

    • Robin July 29, 2012, 6:24 pm

      I like the potluck idea! My husband and I will often share a single meal at restaurants too. The portion sizes are plenty for 2 people so we’re not going without just to save some money. I’m not a picky eater and my husband is so I just let him order and everyone is happy.

  • Mama Minou July 22, 2012, 6:54 pm

    This may be a little off topic, but I LOVE Settlers of Catan! And it’s a great teaching tool for young Mustachians. In fact, a friend who we introduced to this game recently invoked it when she described embarking on the process of becoming a landlord, adding on ADUs to her new property, and generally building up resources.

    Also, I agree with your suggestions about speaking up. Last year I found myself in an awkward position at a friend’s post-wedding fancy dinner in San Francisco, when equal splitting of the bill (despite unequal ordering) came up. I was not confident enough to speak up about it at that point, but…no more! I’m proud to be frugal and of what I’m (slowly) building up.

    • Executioner July 22, 2012, 8:21 pm

      Settlers of Catan night is a weekly occurrence for an amorphous group of about 6-8 adults (my wife and I included) these days. We have a great time with it. Many of them used to get together regularly and play poker, but we all agree that Catan is better, mainly because it’s Cheaper (no need to bet on the game for it to be fun), but also because it’s more interesting to us, and still equally social. I’m still hurting from last Friday night’s games that kept us up until 3 AM…

      By the way, marvel at this custom board that I found online (at boardcrafting [dot] wordpress [dot] com). Maybe some of the craftier Mustachians among us could follow this lead and make their own high-end custom board.

  • Jen July 22, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Restaurants are truly the best way to throw your money away – I hate the feeling of staring at a $60 bill and knowing we could have had a much better meal at home. Glad to say that now it is one of the aspects where my hubby and I are on the same page – no more restaurants, no more eating out with friends until we are FI. This is a big achievement for us, as I am talking here about my normally anti-mustachian husband, who is currently obsessed about “upgrading” our fully functional TV to a 60″ 3D Smart LED or whatever.

    By the way we live in Asia, where street food culture is very strong, so one can actually eat out for $8 or less per person (3-course dinner, non fancy). That’s a cheap alternative if we “have to” go out. Alcohol is outrageously expensive though, so carrying a booster is essential :)

  • Mike G July 22, 2012, 7:25 pm

    MMM, care to share some insight on your new bread avoiding diet? What and why?

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 12:28 pm

      I think it’s going to get its own post really soon, although I’ve mentioned it a bit in the food/grocery articles. The “what” is sort of a relaxed and less meat-intense version of the Paleo diet trend. The “Why” is because I’ve found it totally changes your eating patterns and makes you slimmer AND healthier. Everyone I know who has reduced their bread consumption, has lost a bunch of their fat and is looking great these days.

      I’ll have to add a footnote to my old Bread Machine article, because while those things are still useful for many things, I no longer use it to make bread for myself.

      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple July 23, 2012, 7:25 pm

        Good. I’d be really interested in reading about it. I’ve dabbled here and there with paleo, and bread is the hardest thing to avoid for me.

      • Dancedancekj July 23, 2012, 11:14 pm

        YES. So excited for this. I won’t take away from MMM’s thunder, but what he is talking about rings so true for me. Body fat is melting away, my energy levels are through the roof, I have all these veins running everywhere that I didn’t before, and the abs are popping!

        ETA: I might also add that being a strict-er Primal/LactoPaleo) dieter allows me to have a cheaper bill when I do choose to go out and enjoy a meal with friends. Doesn’t mean I deprive myself (a bunless hamburger with avocado and sweet potato fries certainly is not lacking in any department), but it certainly restricts what I can order, and that helps a lot.

        • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple July 24, 2012, 6:37 pm

          I don’t go out often, but I try and do the same. I figure most restaurants either have a good paleo option OR a good vegan option. I try to find one of those. Helps me stay away from pizza.

  • JJ July 22, 2012, 7:35 pm

    Cheap v Frugal – good point. Frugal isn’t about being a miser, it’s about limiting spending on stupid stuff so you can spend on priorities and spending on what is actually fulfilling, rather than what is fulfilling by convention. If you’re in a situation where you’re about to drop $100/head on a meal you may as well enjoy it rather than fidgeting the whole night watching the numbers rack up. Just don’t get in the situation where it happens too often.

    Here in Oz it is almost impossible to split bills, so if you are out with friends you just have to go with it. Of course, if they start ordering bottles of Grange Hermitage @ $2299/bottle (http://www.penfoldsgrangeforsale.com/) it may be worth forcing the issue.

    Great suggestions on taking the lead – one of the other drawbacks of working flat out all week – it is hard to summon the imagination to do anything different. This is why taking the lead with your working friends works.

    • Baughman July 23, 2012, 9:53 am

      Looks like MMM just called me out on being cheap. I’d never blow $100 to eat food with friends. It strikes me as irrational.

      Luckily for me, my friends don’t eat out at $100 restaurants. Perhaps I chose friends who have similar spending habits to me.

      I’d blow $50 on a lift ticket to go skiing with a friend in a heart beat.

      I reject our cultural norm of socializing at restaurants. Why we obsess on blowing insane amounts of money AND TIME (I always marvel at the amount of time it takes to to travel to the restaurant, be seated, order, eat, and wait for check) on food that will likely kill us (it is no accident that restaurant food tastes so good) and only give us 10 second bouts of pleasure will never cease to amaze me. I guess you could fairly call me an eat to live person, not a live to eat person.

      When I left my last job, they wanted to take me out to lunch. I made a counter-offer and said that what I’d like best is for everyone to brown bag it and have a board game lunch in a conference room. With raised eyebrows, they accepted my offer. Attendance was high, and my attempt to spread the love of german board games and frugality was a success.

      • juny20 July 23, 2012, 2:49 pm

        I like your eat to live approach! I am still learning and changing my ways as my DW and kids put the pressure and I give in when eating out (a lot less now and I continue on the downward trend). Another thing about restaurants (this was a buffet I went to): probably 80% of the people I saw at the place was overweight!!!! Really???

        • mugwump July 24, 2012, 9:50 am

          We rarely eat at buffets. We don’t eat enough to justify the cost, and you can’t take leftovers home.

    • juny20 July 23, 2012, 2:44 pm

      On the cheap vs. frugal point…at work, some people have come to think (some called me) cheap because I established my rule of not buying anything for raffles or school activities. It is insane; almost every week you have co-workers selling $5 (sometimes even more expensive) or tickets, or cookies, or whatever for the soccer, tennis, baseball, football, whatever team. You can easily spend from $50 to $100 a month with all of this at work!!! So, in order not to benefit some and not others, I do not sell anything to them, but I do not buy anything either. To them, I am cheap, but I disagree. This is also the peer pressure as adults; if you don’t go to the fancy place, you are cheap and not enjoying life.

  • jet July 22, 2012, 7:38 pm

    The most memorable gathering I had with a large number of friends was a picnic and cricket in a local park. We did some public drinking (which is illegal in Australia) and not everyone participated in the game but people watching had fun as well. Drunken cricket, for the win!

    Another thing we did was a ‘progressive dinner’ where we rode our bikes from house to house eating a course at each. Turned out pretty well except for the people who made party pies. Ick.

    I need to organise something like that again.

    I have plans to organise a bike tour of the local wineries this Spring. We will meet up at either our house or a closer train station (to discourage driving to the start point). We can do it all on bike path and quiet streets so it should be good for those who are non-confident riders.

    • JJ July 22, 2012, 7:45 pm

      I did a progressive dinner on an Australian mine site years ago. Very memorable. Entrees were at the drillers’ camp. Core trays are great for serving crackers and cheese.

      • jet July 23, 2012, 1:17 am

        ha JJ I’d say that the very strict safety regulations on mine sites these days have stopped that kind of thing!

    • Grant July 23, 2012, 5:44 am

      Good to see some fellow Aussies on here!

      Public drinking is not illegal everywhere (here in Newcastle, only banned where it is specifically signposted – but with the crackdown on antisocial behaviour, those areas are quite extensive) – we not infrequently go to the beach of a Friday afternoon, followed by picnic dinner and a few beers/wine. There are a number of other regular groups doing the same :)

      The progressive dinner sounds good – might have to see if I can organise one of those!

      • jet July 24, 2012, 12:14 am

        It’s illegal in Perth – I have been warned and moved on a few times, without being a drunken lout, mind you! It really depends on the coppers and if they have nothing to do, or if they have been directed to crack down on drinking at certain events (like the Australia Day fireworks). Signposts are erected in ‘trouble spots’ in ‘trouble towns’ like Laverton/Leonora etc. Interesting to know different states have different rules, I guess I should have known that! :D

      • Ralph December 23, 2015, 10:53 am

        You may not read this but, the most ridiculous thing about the signposted areas is some of them are in areas with multiple pubs and clubs etc.
        Get drinks inside and step outside for a smoke and you can not take your drink with you.

  • Dee July 22, 2012, 7:44 pm

    Ohhhh, the MMs are in town! My favourite place to eat out here in Ottawa is Huang’s Vietnamese Bistro, on Booth St, just a few blocks south of Somerset (the heart of Ottawa’s small Chinatown). My boyfriend and I eat there at least once a week (we may decide to cut down on frequency in the spirit of mustachianism) and we pay $26, tip included (the bill comes out to just about $20, so we are not skimping on the tip). We get an appetizer of spring rolls, and each get a bowl of a different pho (Vietnamese soup that consists of the main course). Also included are unlimited tea and bean sprouts. These Vietnamese places (and other Asian places) can be a much cheaper place to eat out, relative to typical restaurants.

    Today, we went hiking at a municipal off-road cycling park in Kanata. Hope you are enjoying your stay Mr. & Mrs. MM!

    • Gerard July 22, 2012, 8:26 pm

      Vietnamese food is such a taste-per-dollar wonder. As I meet more foodie people, we’re more into eating at non-fancy great-food places. This fall, we’re starting a Strip Mall Supper Club, to explore Toronto’s mostly-immigrant near suburbs, eating food much better than we can make at home for eight bucks or so. Inspired by this article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/restaurant-reviews/eating-through-torontos-east-end-the-10-tastiest-spots-in-scarborough/article4365223/?page=all
      Although for some people, Celebrating can only be done somewhere fancy and/or dark ‘n’ liquor-y… at which point I suggest eating somewhere like a Vietnamese place, then going for drinks somewhere divey nearby.

      • carolinakaren July 23, 2012, 2:43 pm

        I have to chime in on this too. Our favorite place to eat out is the Thai restaurant near our house. The entrees are huge and most only cost about $10. Unless it is July or August we usually bike there and combine the trip with other errands, pet food, market, pharmacy….this cuts down on any guilt we feel for eating out. We love Thai so much though it is well worth sacrificing a few of our “employees” to pay for dinner!

  • JaneMD July 22, 2012, 9:04 pm

    I remember Joe over at NoMoreHarvardDebt spent something like $1300 a month on entertaiment. (I checked my food entertainment budget for the last three months and have spent something like $30 a month in ‘eating out.’ We’re very limited because we keep kosher so eating out is a rarity.)

    When it does come to splitting the bill, it’s best to ask (politely) as soon as the server comes to take you order. You can try to mention it quietly to the hostess/host, but since she doesn’t actually take your order, it will probably get repeated. I bet anyone who has waited tables can attest to how frustrating it is to find out at the end of a meal that there were supposed to be multiple different checks.

  • Cindy July 22, 2012, 9:57 pm

    This reminds me of a post I hope you’ll write someday: how to deal with Christmas–which is often all about exchanging clutter and calories we don’t need, in the name of friendship.
    I’ve used your strategy of planning some of the holiday events myself (shifting from gift exchanges to doing a community service project together), but would love to hear other tips on how to graciously tell your friends to please don’t give you more calories or clutter, and how to handle the social pressure you feel to give a reciprocal gift when a friend gives you something you didn’t want in the first place!

    • Angela July 23, 2012, 11:03 am

      I finally got the nerve to tell my friends and family last year that I would not be participating in gift exchanges anymore for birthdays, Christmas, etc. Everyone is starting to have kids too and I’m not buying their kids anything either. I figure if they never get a gift from me starting with their 1st birthday, they will never expect it. I still receive gifts from some of these people, often things I don’t need or want. I sell most of it on eBay. I don’t like holidays or birthdays dictating when I buy a gift, because then it’s not really a gift. I do buy gifts for my parents, sisters, and husband. I love buying them gifts, but I also know what they want and or need because they have specifically requested something in an email. : ) I would love to see an article from Mr. MMM on this topic as well.

      • Jamesqf July 23, 2012, 11:20 am

        Reminds me of my neighbors’ grandkids. Indulgent grandparents plus divorced parents meant the kids really cleaned up on the loot – but after everything was unwrapped, they ignored all the toys and had loads of fun playing with the boxes and wrapping paper.

      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple July 23, 2012, 11:43 am

        After about a decade of trying to get people to cut back, they finally are in our families. At least, for the adults. They still buy for the kids. My inlaws used to buy me so many things for my birthday, and it was crazy. Finally they stopped! But then, they split up and their incomes have to cover two homes.

        • carolinakaren July 23, 2012, 2:50 pm

          Several years ago our family decided to forgo gifts in exchange for monetary “gifts” to a family vacation fund. We started doing this because one year I was uninspired…..couldn’t think of a single meaningful gift for anyone in my family. One thing I did know was that we want to spend time together and who doesn’t love vacation? So, I booked a beachfront condo and gave everyone an envelope with the reservation information. My family loved it so much that they suggested we all contribute to the cause the following year. We each contribute an amount that is comfortable or comparable to what we feel is an appropriate amount to spend on a gift. (No pressure for each person to equal another’s contribution.) It has cut down on the stress of the holidays and less gift wrap is very earth-friendly too! We use this method for Christmas, birthdays, etc.

    • Linden July 23, 2012, 12:00 pm

      I tell everyone I know to give me toilet paper as a gift, and after years of doing this I finally have everyone trained. And that is what I give as gifts unless I know a person very well…I love, love, love getting something as useful as toilet paper!!

      • Bella July 24, 2012, 12:46 pm

        I don’t know if this is really true or just sarcasm – but it’s awesome either way!

      • BobTX June 25, 2013, 9:51 am

        I ask for soap. I think my in-laws think I am crazy.

        • AA July 3, 2013, 3:58 pm

          Whenever my mom arrives for her monthly visit, she always brings me either soap or toilet paper. I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased either.

          My aunt (her sister) is up visiting her right now, and was making fun of her for having 60 rolls in the apartment. She responded by mentioning she had another 20 in the trunk of her car (probably destined for this weekend’s visit to my house!)

          It is some sort of weird obsession, I guess… :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 12:18 pm

      • Jaclyn July 25, 2012, 11:39 am

        I still think we need an article dealing with Christmas since you are more likely to deal with non-mustachians during Christmas. I do not give gifts for any other holiday except to my husband who is on board with my frugal ways. But Christmas is the one time of the year that everyone in my family gets together. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are EXTREMELY materialistic. If I tried the “we are not doing gifts this year” approach, all hell would break loose. My plan this year is to make everyone gifts and just smile-and-nod at their bitchiness.

      • Kokuanani June 8, 2013, 9:50 pm

        This is being written nearly a year after the original comment, so don’t know if anyone will see it, but . . .

        In our family, we have two traditions for dealing with Christmas [also birthdays, Mothers’ Day, etc.]:

        1) The “recipient” selects one or more charities and indicates that ALL he/she really wants for a “gift” is a contribution to one of them. A few years of this, and I’ve got most everyone trained. Of course we have the advantage of a VERY small family.

        2) A couple of years ago we added a tradition of “Write Me Something Beautiful.” A friend started this site in honor of his son who died at around 22. We have modified it to circulate a “family request” of a subject about which we’d like each other to write and share. It could be “tell us about a favorite Christmas memory” or “share something about yourself that the rest of the family doesn’t know.” The possibilities are endless. We each write these up [admittedly, this is just Mom, Dad, and two post-college kids who have left the nest] and then share them. They are heart-warming, memorable and don’t cost anything.

        As a final idea related to “too much stuff” or “don’t give me no damn STUFF,” I have an arrangement with a couple of like-minded friends. We all lament “too much stuff” and acknowledge that we don’t want any more. To take things further, on the “honoree’s” birthday or other celebratory day, the honoree can designate one or more items, and the “giver” will come over, TAKE THE ITEM(s) AWAY, to donate them, recycle them, put ’em in the trash, whatever. So we’re giving the gift both of “no new stuff” AND “I’m gonna help you get rid of some stuff you don’t want.”

        I came up with this idea. Please pat me on the back. ;-)

  • Jamesqf July 22, 2012, 10:12 pm

    A question re the drink booster: do you really enjoy getting drunk? If not, why bother?

    It’s long been a source of mild irritation to me that friends tend to press alcoholic drinks on me, even though I don’t really like most of them (other than the occasional good beer or glass of wine), and would really rather drink water or juice.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 12:11 pm

      YES. I will admit that I DEFINITELY enjoy getting drunk! It’s not in every person’s physiology, but for many of us it is lots of fun.

      It’s just that the health consequences are so enormously negative that I only do it a couple of times per year.

      If you don’t enjoy it, that’s even better – no need for the extra self-discipline!

    • Dancedancekj July 23, 2012, 11:18 pm

      Offer to be the sober one. I can’t process alcohol myself, so I always am a reliable DD. They’ll love it.
      The only problem is that a lot of times people ONLY have alcoholic beverages to drink. Sometimes water is a bit boring for me. I try to bring my own during those times, or I’ll abstain too.

  • Josh July 22, 2012, 10:48 pm

    “we should all be able to eat and drink whatever the hell we want while out enjoying Nature.”

    Yes! I usually interpret “no alcohol” rules to mean “no being an ass while drinking alcohol.” No harm, no foul.

    • juny20 July 23, 2012, 2:57 pm

      And that’s the catch 22: no fights, no obscene language offending others, no throwing up inside the car, and above all, no driving! The difficulty is how people react. If you know your friends, fine. But, if you have other people you are not too sure about, it can mean problems. There are the ones that get drunk and make jokes, the ones that get nostalgic and cry, the ones that sing and dance, the ones that get sick, the ones that look for a fight, and the ones that think they are perfectly fine to drive. Just be prepared…

  • Bobthetree July 23, 2012, 12:09 am

    “Blame Mr. Money Mustache” – I like this one, reminds me of an awesome parenting thing my mom did. She always told me I could blame her for whatever awkward/bad situation I was trying to get out of. Even when given some peer pressure at least most people can resonate with “I’m going to be isolated from society for a year if I get caught”. I used it plenty and it was a nice tool to have growing up. Definitely going to remember to inform my kids of the same thing.

    • Gillyfish April 17, 2014, 2:20 pm

      My mom too! it was such a perfect excuse. And i remember being in awe of how “selfless” she was :-P

  • the thrifty spendthrift July 23, 2012, 3:54 am

    I just find it to be the case that my friends who should be spending the least on things are often spending the most. One of my friends who has repeatedly told me that she and her husband barely get by: (1) refuses to move out of her overpriced neighborhood because they love it (2) continues to travel a few times a year (3) never seems to shop for anything on sale (4) spends quite a bit on going out. And then there is the shock when they wonder how we have quite a bit in savings compared to them.

    What you’re saying does hold true—I find that once you suggest something, other people follow. Once someone suggested a park outing and we all just got together on the cheap and hung-out with our items brought from home. Then again you can just befriend the millions of people with frugal blogs these days.

  • Poor Student July 23, 2012, 4:56 am

    Luckily for me, the weekend (and Thursday) plans for students involve enjoying those tasty beverages at home and then going to a bar or pub. While others may then grab drinks at the bar, the cost of my night is usually the cost of cover at the bar ($5 mostly) and the cheap drinks at home.

    If only Canada had as cheap of beer as the US, that would be even more affordable. I myself have developed a taste for the frugal Red Baron, which I recommend for a reasonably frugal beer next time you are in Canada. It costs about 25% off the cost of any big name beer. But other than that it would be best to bring your own American beer when you come, depending on your preference (I prefer Canadian beer but understand the different views).

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 12:07 pm

      All students in Canada need to understand how incredibly simple it is to brew your own beer! Check out monsterbrew.com for initial research.

      • Drew July 23, 2012, 2:49 pm

        I’m curious in the article when you mentioned the network of you friends there. Did you infer 10 Years out of high school or 10 years out of college?

  • Jayadeep Purushothaman July 23, 2012, 5:31 am

    I am glad to realize that I am not a cheap person, but a frugal one!

  • Former Bar Owner July 23, 2012, 6:57 am

    I converted to “mustachianism” independently a few years ago, and I’m a regular reader who agrees with almost everything you write, but as a former bar owner I have to take issue with your flask suggestion. There are many places (in the US, at least) where bars can be fined, or even have their liquor license suspended or revoked, if a patron is discovered bringing in their own alcohol. $7+ for a drink is outrageously expensive, but I’d rather go without than be responsible for potentially destroying someone else’s business.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 12:05 pm

      Thanks Former Bar Owner, I didn’t realize that our dumb regulations could unfairly punish venues like that. It is good to know and will surely help some of the younger Mustachians here in their decision-making. Hopefully the knowledge will cause more house parties!

      (With a drinking goal of less than two alcoholic drinks a week nowadays, my own flasking days are over!).

      • David July 24, 2012, 11:39 am

        I never was a bar owner, but managed a bar at our students association regularly (All voluntary personnel). As Mr. Former Bar Owner, I agree with the whole piece, except for the booster drinks.

        The bar we managed charged 1 euro ($1.20 or something?) for a beer, and we barely managed to stay afloat. People bringing their own drinks lowered our incomes. Additionally, having to throw people out for bringing their own drinks is no fun, especially when all personnel are basically doing the job for fun. I’m not sure if bringing your own booze is illegal here, but to me and my friends it’s Cheap, not Frugal.

        Luckily, even now I am a working member of society and not a student anymore, we still do not visit places where they charge 7$ for a beer.

        • Bella July 24, 2012, 12:56 pm

          I’m kinda surprised this took so long to come up – it’s one thing to bring a flask to the park or a venue that does not offer alchoholic drinks (and maintain composure and all that), but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to BYO to a place that sells drinks. The cost of the drink is not for the alcohol but for the atmosphere the establishment has paid to create. And if the venue isn’t worth the extra price tag – stay home and drink!
          As reformed every friday sat night folks, when people comment now on how much we spend on our mountain bikes, we just reply –
          Sure beats sitting on a barstool!

          • Joy Host July 24, 2012, 3:09 pm

            I appreciate this. I have always struggled with entering a business without being a true patron, because it seems so disrespectful. To bring your own flask to a bar just feels too rude to me.

            However–I DO bring little bottles on airplanes! Under 4 oz, you’re good, and if you’re on an airline that serves free soda, you’ve just gotten a $7-$11 drink for $1-$2. I’ve done it on a number of cross-country and international flights, with no problem.

            Finally, I think another way to be cheap not frugal is to go to a bar or restaurant and order nothing. Buy a soda, get an appetizer, but my strong Southern upbringing (don’t hate!) makes it feel a bit awkward if I am the only one eating or drinking at all. I’d rather hang out at a person’s home than be the one of a party of two willing to put out $3-8. That’s just me, however, and I’ve always been too timid to say anything when I have found myself in those positions.

            Thus, however: my favorite part of this post is the frugal vs. cheap distinction. I think MMM nailed it.

            • andrea November 6, 2016, 2:54 pm

              Reading this a few years later, I’m wondering if this and not terrorism is why airlines have banned bringing any liquids on an airplane.

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 July 23, 2012, 8:10 am

    I must confess that we spent $50 on happy hour two weeks ago. It was a special occasion though and we rare get to go out by ourselves these days. We probably spend that much once a month or so. Sure, it’s a little expensive, but I think it’s worth it. We mostly cook at home and we love to try new food so it’s fun for us. Now that I’m retired, we probably go out a little less often.
    I like bringing our own drinks to picnics and free performances in the park too. It’s acceptable here and it’s much more affordable than buying alcohol in the venue.

  • RubeRad July 23, 2012, 9:11 am

    get (or make) yourself a copy of Settlers of Catan

    What, make? Is there PDF out there or guidelines for some kind of DIY Catan? (Likewise for Carcassonne? I love me some German real-estate gaming!)

    Linkage please!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 11:59 am

      Actually, I was thinking of making my own board set (using the Wikipedia description of Catan and interviewing enthusiast friends as needed).. and documenting that in an article.

      Just need to work up a jig for the table saw to cut nice hexagon-shaped pieces of wood!

      • Baughman July 23, 2012, 12:25 pm

        I have a brother-in-law that pirates board games too. I don’t understand how someone can feel good about pirating board games and feel bad about pirating music/dvds. Is it because there are no FBI warnings that play when you open up the box to a board game?

        Board games are relatively cheap. Settlers is selling for $33.41 right now on Amazon. Who knows how many times I’ve played the game, but my average cost/play is less than 50 cents. Considering the amount of entertainment that I’ve gotten for my 50cents/play, this doesn’t strike me as egregious profiteering punishable with pirating.

        Resell value on games is high so even if you hate it you’re only out 20% of the purchase price and your time for putting a stamp on the box.

        • Grant July 24, 2012, 11:34 am

          Not everyone shares your assumptions. I don’t consider it piracy, for one thing. Even if so, I don’t think piracy is a reasonable way to ‘punish’ ‘egregious profiteering’.

        • Mr. Money Mustache July 24, 2012, 3:58 pm

          Yeah, I can see the case for buying the game too. My thinking was
          a) for 30+ bucks, I want a finely polished and sturdy wooden game set, not just a few squares of cardboard. Since game development cost is very low, the price sounds like profiteering to me.

          b) Similar to my price for reading this blog, I believe information and entertainment should be shared as cheaply as possible by the creator after a reasonable wage is earned, rather than hoarded into an expensive and profitable monopoly. Your own sacrifice of additional Mercedes benzes is more than made up for by the joy of just maybe helping out. Linux and Craigslist are nice examples.

          c) I’d enjoy making my own version from various scraps of beautiful wood.

          • Grant (a different one) July 24, 2012, 4:18 pm

            You should check out http://www.cheapass.com/

            They have some awesome games. Their philosophy is that you probably already have all the game pieces, dice, etc, so you just need the concept. They are “frugally” constructed and packaged, you really are just buying an idea – and cheaply at that! They even have some free games you can print out yourself.

          • Baughman July 27, 2012, 9:10 am

            My thinking is that German board games are awesome. And the more games are pirated, the fewer incentives these innovative board game makers (reiner knizia) have to continue to make these games. And I also believe that higher board game sales would lead to more innovative and fun board games. You may think I’m crazy, but if large percentages of people pirated, this would exactly be the case. It’s only not the case if piracy is minimal.

            I don’t fault your reasons for wanting to create your own game. If it were me, I’d buy the rights to the game and then do so.

            I’m glad to hear that you’ve tried and enjoyed Settlers of Catan. I’ve found these strategy games as such an enjoyable way of spending time with friends.

      • Bella July 24, 2012, 1:01 pm

        Is the copyright expired on Settlers? I guess I can see how since I already own my own set – making one that would be a fun theme version would be kinda cool
        Although, it’s pretty hard to beat – Do you have any wood for my sheep? In a crowd of Montanans.

      • anonymous August 6, 2012, 12:17 am

        While it won’t help much for playing the game in person with friends, there exists an electronic version of Settlers of Catan for playing online, called “Pioneers” – http://pio.sourceforge.net/ .

        Similarly, for anyone who enjoys collectible card games but doesn’t want the expensive hobby of actually *collecting*, try GCCG: http://gccg.sourceforge.net/

    • Dancedancekj July 23, 2012, 11:27 pm

      I remember in some magazine as a kid, there was a contest in which you could submit your idea for a board game, and the winner would get it made by one of the gaming companies! You had to make the board, pieces, cards, rules, etc.

      My siblings and I all ended up making all these games, spending hours cutting pieces of cardstock, printing out images, and gluing cardboard together. We never actually entered our ideas, but they sure were a lot of fun to create and play.

      I would say that there’s not really any reason one couldn’t do the same thing as an adult. For example, a lot of my friends are into various sci-fi’s. I see no reason why one couldn’t create a sci-fi trivia board game. Sure, it would take some effort, but think how awesome it would be! Minus the fact that you would probably memorize a lot of the answers and have an unfair advantage of course…

  • Mr. Risky Startup July 23, 2012, 9:40 am

    Biggest problem today is that word “affordable” has been hijacked by the marketing companies working for banking and auto industry. As in “affordable $600 per month car payment”.

    I keep telling my friends who make 1/3 of my pay and have tons of debt (I have none) that I cannot afford new car, or a house with “guest rooms”, but they just laugh. They think that is impossible because they can afford new car every 3 years and a 5 bedroom house – so how come I cannot afford it given my pay and lack of debt? What they do not understand is that they have been sold on the idea that “affordable” stands for “monthly payment can be covered by the money left over after paying for food”.

    Not to diminish the tragedy of actual slavery, but word slavery fits quite well – banks favorite customer is the one that is in debt just to his/her neck – deep enough so that they cannot get out of the debt, yet not too deep to drown into bankruptcy.

    I would love to see calculation on how much interest average person pays during their lifetime. My bet would be that at least 1/3 of average lifetime earnings goes to the banks. So, average person my have to work extra 10-15 years of their lives just for the banks – hence – slavery.

    • GregK July 23, 2012, 9:56 am

      Lifetime numbers are hard to come by… however, the Federal Reserve does put out data on US households’ Financial Obligation Ratio (FOR) — the percent of disposable (after-tax) income that goes to paying debt obligations, including required principal payments. The FOR includes mortgage payments, and is reported quarterly.

      Since 1980, the average ratio has been 17%. The ratio peaked in 2007 at 19%, but has since fallen steeply (as people have defaulted on loans, and/or paid down debt… mostly the former) and sits now at 16%.

      That’s still a lot of debt payments, but not 10-15 years worth. Figure 5-7 years worth of slave labor :-)

      Of course, this is only part of the picture — most slave labor is done to pay for “Shit You Don’t Need”, regardless of one’s debt disposition. If you buy MMM’s assertion that living on the trailing edge of luxury can have you retiring in 10-15 years of work, while most people work for at least 40, that’s up to 30 years of slavery!

      • Mr RiskyStartup.com July 23, 2012, 10:23 am

        You are right, I was using anecdotal evidence from the crowd I belong to (mostly under 40, with young families).

        However, what I failed to calculate was compound interest on the money you do not pay to the banks. If we take your number of 17% interest, average pay of $40K and 6% return on the money, average person could retire off interest payments to the banks alone in 35 years. So, average person who enters the workforce at 20, could retire at 55 just by not paying the interest. If that same person just saves 10% more off their pay ($4000 per year) they could cut that to around 28 years – so they could retire by the time they are 48!!!

        These are rough numbers, dont crucify me if I am off by couple of years :)

      • Jamesqf July 23, 2012, 11:30 am

        I don’t think it’s right to use that 16-17% number, since it includes mortgage payments. Many of us would be paying a similar (or in my case, greater) amount in rent if we weren’t paying that mortgage, with none of it going to principal.

        • Dillon July 25, 2012, 6:08 am

          James, I was thinking along the same lines at first regarding student loan debt. But then I realized that it is a slippery slope (deciding what debt is “fair” or not) and I was just making excuses. Yes, I was 18-23 and didn’t know what I was getting myself into at the time. Yes, my remaining loans are outstanding obligations that are on my credit report in the form of installment credit. About 25% of my gross income (in 2012, % goes up every year as much as I can manage) goes toward student loans so my ratio is pretty high myself. My revolving credit is pretty manageable and the balance is paid off each month and my debt utilization ratio never goes above the 15% threshold (I have revolving credit mainly for the rewards). My point is, debt is debt and if you start delineating then where do you draw the line to make comparisons because everyone will differ on what kind of debt is reasonable. A mortgage is on your credit report as well but at least you are building equity.

        • Mr. Risky Startup July 26, 2012, 9:00 am

          You are right, but even with mortgages there is a right and a wrong way of doing it.

          Example 1: My well-paid brother who purchased the house for over $200K with only $0 down (even though I did the math for him showing that he will spend $190K in interest over the years versus buying a smaller house and improving it or even renting small condo until he has more down-payment money) – 7 years later, he owes more than house is worth (refinanced once already to take equity out). Hates his house now. Did I mention he now drives 20 miles each way to work? And, he could not accept a better job in another town because he could not sell his house. He is now destined to slave for the banks for many more years.

          Example 2: My brother-in-law, who makes half the money my brother does but who smartly saved money (tiny wedding, part time jobs etc.) and then bought a discounted model-home in the up and coming area, worked hard to improve it with finished basement, added bathrooms etc… Had the house almost fully paid off and then flipped it for cool $100K profit. Then, he took his equity, his profit and found another distressed home – (some rich idiot whose wife hated the house brick colour, made her husband buy the house across the street, then promptly divorced him – leaving him with two mortgages and alimony). So, my brother-in-law now owns a gorgeous 400K house, with only about $50K mortgage left to be paid off (he expects it done within 2-3 years). They are having their 4th child next month, his wife never needed to work and they still get to enjoy vacations etc.

    • Ian Turner May 23, 2013, 4:28 pm

      If that is your biggest problem… Then you are in a good position indeed!

  • BonzoGal July 23, 2012, 9:56 am

    LOL at: “Nowadays, I’ve taken it even further and acquired a more powerful computer.. and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m using it to control YOU!”


  • Tam July 23, 2012, 11:37 am

    Re Point #2: Please, no one should let you plan anything–group workouts and walking tours? Man that sounds boring. I agree that the expensive restaurant can be a financial issue and get old after awhile, but basically you’re suggesting replacing all activities with some kind of physical workout. This means you either have no imagination or have a very limited idea of what’s fun.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2012, 11:51 am

      Ahh, if it isn’t “Tam”, the person who hassled me earlier with an incorrect estimate of the frequency of my posts about bikes.

      This time, you missed the suggestions about the board games or hosting dinner events at your house. But you’re right that in general I’ll always suggest that we do physical things, because on average none of us do enough, and thus that is where the most benefit is available. Also, since moving the body is rare in our culture, the activities will be more memorable to your friends.

      As for “boring” and “a limited idea of what’s fun”, I’m amazed that a social planner as skilled as yourself was able to write that cutting criticism without suggesting a single alternative idea for a group activity?

      Hassling Mr. Money Mustache while offering no real counterpoint may be a fun pastime for you, but now that you’ve done it three times, it’s time to move on. I hear there’s some great news on cnn.com today!

      • guitarist July 23, 2012, 1:44 pm

        Why did you even respond to that guy, MMM?
        I made the comment about the twisted world we live in on the forums about the blog where the writer mentioned giving up TV would “lower his quality of life.” To me, this is the same thing.

        Physical activity is boring? I love going for walks through my parents’ neighborhood on Thanksgiving and Christmas evening. Working off the extra food I ate, keeping my energy up before the turkey puts me to sleep, getting the fresh crisp air, the near silence around me (apart from those walking with me) as other families sit huddled around their TVs like zombies. Coming across a playground and having all the kids play until they’re tired while the parents look on, talking with each other.

        If you can’t enjoy doing something simple with your friends and family, just what are you taking out of life?

      • Dancedancekj July 23, 2012, 11:22 pm

        Doesn’t have to be physical at all to be a fun and enjoyable activity for minimal cost. Here are some things I’ve enjoyed

        1. Free public concerts within walking distance. Blanket, some booze and food in a picnic basket, and you’re set.
        2. Costume themed party (Communist Party, Brought to you by the letter G, Mashup party). Booze, food, and music.
        3. Hosting/cooking a dinner together. Have people bring booze (in my case).

        You can see a pattern here of course..

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple July 23, 2012, 12:32 pm

      Boring? I like physical workouts. They are fun for me. I miss them right now as I’m recovering from childbirth and completely on someone else’s schedule. Walks, bikes, hikes, beach days. That’s fun!

      We used to play board games for fun too. But that’s harder with young children. And we had to pick and choose our games, as for a long time, our friends were not native English speakers, so word games were out.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple July 23, 2012, 11:51 am

    I really liked this post. Now, eating out used to be entertainment for me. We did it a lot. It was nice to be waited on. Then, at some point, it ceased to be fun. Probably when:

    1. our son got to be two, then eating out was a chore
    2. I learned to cook (before our son was two), and found that restaurant food was disappointing. Most of what I cook is just better.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a meal out. A few years ago, we had a blow out for our anniversary. I think the total meal with wine, apps, dessert, main, was $250. Now, we’ve been married for 16 years. So, I guess one $250 meal in 16 years isn’t too bad.

    But for the most part…I’d rather eat at home. My baby group with my older son liked to do “mom’s night out”. But whichever women picked the places, picked such expensive places. $20-30 an entree, plus wine and apps. There are many other places that are good and more affordable. And one place, we were overcharged, but with 15 people couldn’t figure out where. So my $40 bill became $55 and I ended up digging into my grocery money.

    Personally, I liked to entertain here. I’ve thought about doing Mom’s Night on my back patio. Wine and appetizers (pot luck). Maybe when the baby is older.

    The walk idea is a great one too. As long as it doesn’t end with lunch at a restaurant, with people who stiff on the tip. I’ve participated in three 3-day breast cancer walks, and there’s still a group that walks regularly on the weekends. I also enjoy walks with my mom friends, hikes. I think group fitness is a great idea, considering how little exercise people get these days.

    We have free concerts in the park during the summers. Many of our friends go, so we all throw blankets and chairs down on the grass, bring dinner/snacks/drinks, listen to music and chill out. Total cost: $3 for parking, and that’s only because we get there too late to really search for free parking.

  • Nurse Frugal July 23, 2012, 12:46 pm

    Great article!!! I love the part about asking for your own separate check and having no shame about it. Since I have been on a budget, it has made going out to dinner with friends awkward at times. People will order appetizers for the whole table and drinks for themselves and expect everyone to split the bill evenly. Two words: HELL NO! Not anymore, yeah I might seem “cheap” or “frugal” but when I go out, I expect to only pay for what I ordered….ridiculous!

    • Gentleman Trekker July 24, 2012, 12:05 pm

      I’m a little mystified to hear about table checks being split “equally,” when everyone has ordered different things at different prices. I’ve never encountered that, personally, and I would be put off if someone suggested that. It’s just an excuse for the spendthrift to have their costs subsidized by the thrifty. It is not right, and amounts to a kind of theft, in my opinion.

      • Dancedancekj July 24, 2012, 2:40 pm

        The unspoken rule for my friends is this:
        1. If there is not much difference between our totals, we will split it evenly.
        2. If there is a disparity between bills, we will have our bills separately.
        3. Sometimes people will order appetizers or a dessert for the table, but then they take responsibility for ordering that (or discuss splitting it beforehand so that everyone who doesn’t has a chance to say no)
        4. When I take someone out for lunch, or if the meal is really cheap (~$10) sometimes I will just pay for it. Then, the next time, my friend will get my equally cheap meal.

        I don’t stress it too much overall with my friend circle. I know that the venues are not killing my pocketbook, and I value their friendship and company. If I don’t want to spend any money, I will simply not order anything to eat or drink.

      • Nurse Frugal July 24, 2012, 9:10 pm

        I agree, and it happens all the time which absolutely bewilders me! Before, I would feel embarrassed to speak up, even with my own close friends who would want to just “split” the bill. I would feel cheap. Now, I have no qualms because I do feel it is a little like theft and definitely not fair.

  • Frederick Ross July 23, 2012, 2:47 pm

    Random points:

    Restaurants: My girlfriend and I go out to eat once a month. I’m new the area, but she grew up here, so she really enjoys figuring out somewhere that I’ll really like. Mind you, a lot of the places she knows about are things like the best fried chicken I’ve had since I left the south, and a pretty wonderful taco cart (we took those to the arboretum and ate them under an arbor of bare lilacs in the snow). There have been pricier places, but funnily we always seem to get away for under $20/person and eat fabulously well. It makes eating out into an occasion, and was a good compromise when we moved in together, since she used to eat out a lot, and over my four years in Switzerland, I probably ate out twice a year on my own dime.

    Board games: I should get into this more. I know I should. But I keep getting more interested in how the games are designed than the actual play.

    Probability of encountering random Mustachians: several friends have independently sent me the link to the blog, saying, “You might like this.” The distribution is distinctly not random. My anecdotal evidence places it closer to 1/50.

  • smedleyb July 23, 2012, 2:59 pm

    MMM, enjoy yourself.

    Just another day in the life of a “King for a Day!”

  • carolinakaren July 23, 2012, 4:13 pm

    I really enjoyed this post! Lately some of our neighbors have taken to last-minute dinners together where everyone brings their own food to throw on the grill. Some of the guests also bring a side or app, and we all BYOB. Those nights have been so fun (and inexpensive)! The lack of planning seems to contribute to the relaxed atmosphere too. Thanks everyone for all the creative ideas for frugal ways to have fun with friends!

  • InterestingMoney July 23, 2012, 9:57 pm

    Excellent advice MMM. I especially enjoyed that part about not feeling shame in getting separate tabs, as I always tend to try to grab the single bill when it comes to the table. It feels good from a generosity standpoint, but my wallet always smarts afterward.

    Pushing for plans to bring people to your own house is always favorable in my book. Some of my favorite gatherings with friends have been drinking beer on the back patio while grilling BBQ and playing badminton. Much less expensive than a night on the town, and more memorable as well.

    This is my first post on your site. I think I’m now finally caught up from the beginning. What can I say? I’m now a converted Mustachian. :-)

  • Holly@Clubthrifty July 24, 2012, 6:32 am

    This is great advice. We have friends that always want to pick the restaurant we go to. They always pick something extremely expensive and they always want to eat at 9 or 10 pm. It’s crazy! The last thing I want to do is pay for a $150 meal at 10p.m.!
    I finally started telling them that I didn’t want to spend that much on dinner and that I had to eat by 7p.m. God, I’m old…..

    • Dancedancekj July 24, 2012, 2:41 pm

      I suggest sometimes going to places that have “reverse” happy hour at 9 or 10 o’clock. Maybe you could convince them to choose those kind of venues?

      • Holly@ClubThrifty.com July 26, 2012, 2:18 pm

        I have never heard of such a thing. I don’t know if they exist in my area. Regardless, I feel yucky eating dinner at 9 or 10 p.m. It seems unnatural.

  • George July 24, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Often you can politely redirect the friends to somewhere that will not cause too much damage to the wallet.

    If the occasion is really truly special, i.e. a once in a lifetime event or seeing someone who you have not seen in 5-10 years, then it is absolutely appropriate to spend a lot at a very fancy place if the event requires it. It seems we have an internal compass that will let you know through feelings and intuition to know when it is ok to go out somewhere fancy and when it is not.

    Of course, if the meal is just your everyday routine get together, the expensive nights out got to stop if you want to reach FI, this is what I did; believe it or not even if you politely decline on them, the sun will still rise tomorrow and world will go about its business; often if someone is really your friend they will still like you even if you insist on eating at home or eating cheap;

    for people who require expensive restaurants as a requirement, I find myself drifting away from them; I really don’t think that a true flashy, higher spender jones’ type and a Mustachian can exist too long in the same place for too long; they are like polar opposites.

    instead I like to gently observe my friends through context and conversation to see which are open to a more frugal lifestyle and which are not; often they will bring up some comment about no having money or how expensive life is, I can say something, like, have you considered trying this? (of course you do this without preaching to them but rather suggesting); it is strange how I have trouble finding people my own age (30s) that are doing as well as us financially (except of course many of the people on this blog, especially MMM; in fact this blog, is like the NFL of frugality skills); further you can instantly see your friends mistakes just by talking with them for a little bit, you want to help, yet you know they have to find it for themselves;

    some friends you can keep and will change (even if just slightly) and thank you for it, others will just see the differences in values and ideas about money and go off on their own

    I have successfully suggested small pizza shops or something like a philly cheese steak place that serves no alcohol, thus even if they insist on eating out, the bill does not become outrageous. This is especially true if there is no alcohol served in the place; Of course this does not mean you cannot drink, I will drink at home before leaving and thus get our buzz before going out, luckily my wife hates drinking thus she can drive on the way there; or alternatively if you are biking, I don’t believe you can get a DUI for riding a bike buzzed (doing this within reason of course, safety of yourself being considered); Also, I have found that by drinking on an empty stomach before you leave to go out to eat, you get the effect of 2-3 beers by only drinking 1.

  • Jason July 25, 2012, 6:34 pm

    Holy crap, I just earned the “read all posts” achievement. I was introduced by a co-worker back on May 24th. Took me two months of reading over lunch and a bit after work. Now to put the action plan together…

    • Mr. Frugal Toque July 26, 2012, 8:48 pm

      You also have to make an avatar with a mustache.

  • David July 30, 2012, 10:17 am

    Hay stashman

    Great article. The Mrs. has a great afinity for overpriced restraunt meals, so has taken to paying for them out of her ‘fun money’ stash. Thats fine, its her thing. I probably invest/waste as much or more on my golf habit. Like anything, we balance ‘our things’ with more stash friendly lifestyle choices, and it works for us. But, given the mandatory 15% HST we pay here in Canada, plus the 15% tip, we don’t eat out that much ….

  • Brooke July 31, 2012, 9:30 pm

    This very topic has had me feeling like I’ve been taking crazy pills as of late. Inevitably when going out to a group dinner there are always people that flake and don’t leave their money for tax and tip. And its true that someone will order a whole bunch of appetizers and eat most of them and then think everyone else should be expected to pay for them. Not splitting the tab just creates so much awkwardness and even arguments. If you speak up you’re seen as being uptight if you call anyone out on not paying their full amount due. Social spending peer pressure has been my Achilles heel the last several weeks. My largest pet peeve right now is registries. They are something of an abomination of the actual events they are intended to commemorate, a straight up marketing ploy that we are all suckered into buying into. Call me a Grinch, but I can’t abide being told I should buy something with a prepackaged price tag versus just giving something with thoughtful deliberation. And the amusing thing about that is I’ve read in many etiquette articles its actually considered gauche and rude yet has become more of the norm since these big box stores have enabled the masses with scanner guns. I’ve read recently that gift cards are actually the gifts that are appreciated most. Frankly I would rather give a gift card for an amount within my means than buy into the frivolous overpriced and tacky clutter you see on registry lists. Its definitely tough taking a stand against the materialism. Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Money Mustache for your articles on this subject as they encourage me to stand my ground and keep moving forward towards a future of ease and no debt!

    • Spoon August 2, 2012, 8:31 am

      I concur! I went for a spendy birthday dinner last night. As we didn’t bring a gift (only 1 other guest did, but southern hospitality dictates) we offered to pay for the birthday girls dinner- no one else offered to pony up for it. Who pays for their own birthday dinner?! We put in a generous tip before discovering that another diner had paid for the BD gals drinks. With that deducted from our $$ we now had paid $26 towards the $29 left for the tip! Some cheap-o (s) skated silently not paying anything for their dinner. Group dinners are a nightmare.

  • anonymous August 6, 2012, 12:26 am

    Maybe I still think in student mode, but to me, “eating out” means about $5 for a breakfast or lunch, or $10 for a dinner – beverage included. I rarely encounter a restaurant where you can’t get a great meal for that price. Fortunately for me, all of my friends think in the same mode.

  • jas August 16, 2012, 2:32 pm

    My NY friends are legendary for ordering pricey wine, meals & deserts and expecting me to split the bill evenly with them (who had water and no desert) Fogedaboutit was my reply. And yes of course they all call me a cheap bastard. Good thing that means nothing to me. To others, well, they crumble.

  • Nathan August 18, 2012, 3:45 am

    Speaking of Catan, my younger siblings taught me how to play on a “board” that they made out of paper hexagons after they learned how to play at a friend’s house. Worked great until somebody sneezed. :)

  • David October 4, 2012, 3:24 pm

    As a fellow home-brewer I’ve taken to bottling some of the brew in glass coca-cola or root beer bottles to deal with #5. Never been questioned.

  • The Taminator October 18, 2012, 9:09 am

    Holy moly! This was the first article I read of this blog when I stumbled upon it when it was first posted. I loved it so much I went back to the beginning and started reading every single article and almost every single comment and it has taken me until today to get back to my starting point. Now to continue reading and catch up to the most recent posts. Woohoo!

  • Street December 29, 2012, 2:14 am

    I dig this post. It’s exactly what we do. It started after babies were born and none of us could get to the pub! It has now become our norm and I love nothing more than enjoying my garden with a few ciders and my friends. It also means we don’t have to put up with the wankers at the bars.

  • John Everett April 23, 2013, 10:54 pm

    I’ve got a friend who’s been sucked into the vortex of a “multi-level-marketing” ponzi scheme.

    Most of us have encountered this at some point. It doesn’t matter what the crap they’re selling is, could be books or makeup or massage oil. But people we have known for years suddenly become thoughtless, empty headed zombies who say the same overly generalized things with a near fanatical fervor. If you had not known this person for the last 8 years you would simply write them off as crazy and quietly walk away.

    What’s so horrific about the Ponzi Zombies is that there always seems to be the implication that because you are friends, that you are somehow obligated to buy their worthless crap. And if you refuse to buy the crap, that the relationship you once valued will be lost or diminished.

    How do we protect our stash from the Ponzi Zombies? Can we help them to stop drinking the CoolAid and become human again? Do we turn our backs and quietly walk away from a person we once valued?

    Why do smart people get involved in stupid shit!!!!!!!???????

    • MoosOutFront December 2, 2013, 2:20 pm

      Turn back and walk away. Smart people do not get involved in these things and if they do then their real friends don’t hear about it. They’ll come back around in time. or they won’t.

  • Robin Littlefield September 7, 2013, 7:29 pm

    I like this concept, and it applies broadly. If the mini-culture you’re in doesn’t work, make a respectful attempt to change the culture. Example: I’m a lawyer, a job that traditionally involves pricey (and fattening) work lunches. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but somebody in our office suggested that we bring our lunches instead and use the lunch hour to walk. Four or five of us take a daily, brisk walk around the city–same sharing of ideas and news, same bonding, but now with exercise, fresh air, healthy, cheap lunches, and a walking tour of the city every day! No one has balked at this, because we all wanted to be more frugal, eat healthier, and get more exercise. When you try to make a positive change in your group culture, oftentimes everyone else is relieved because they had similar goals but didn’t want to speak up. Another example: My extended family found ourselves overspending on Christmas gifts every year. One family member suggested we forego gift-giving for the grown-ups and just get together for a relaxed family potluck on Christmas Day instead. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief! These two lessons have taught me to go one step beyond the “I’ll just sit this one out” solution. If you stay involved and try to change the culture of your group, you still get the advantages of participating in the activities while maybe helping everyone else out, too. Plus, it seems the less money you spend, the more convivial and “ground-level” the activities become, which makes them more meaningful and memorable somehow.

    • dodojojo September 15, 2013, 12:28 pm

      I have to admit I’m a big wuss in this matter. I have a friend who always convenes a big group of friends at the latest and hippest restaurants to celebrate his birthday. It usually ends up about $50-60 per person. And my share usually subsidizes others because I do not drink nor have a sweet tooth so I do not order desserts. I do have a good time and year after year I justify this outlay because I have a good time with my friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

      But it really is beginning to rankle me. Especially since I do not convene this type of expensive night out for my own birthday. I have only done once–for my 21st. For my 30th, I had brunch with a couple of friends. Otherwise, I do not do anything for my birthday (it’s really close to a holiday so I feel it’s too much to ask people to spend and celebrate after the rapacious spending of the season). I don’t know how I can bow out without offending my friend. I know that I can’t go next year and then only offer to pay for my order. The approach of the dinner parties is usually to order and share tapas/family style (everyone pays except for birthday boy). So I feel like my only way out is to not attend. But how many birthdays can I skip before it’s obvious?

      • Robin Littlefield September 18, 2013, 9:14 am

        I think it’s OK–preferable, even–to make it obvious. As awkward as it can be, you’ve gotta live your values, you know? We’ve all been there–committing to an event we don’t really want to spend the money on and then putting a brave face on during the event. I’ve done it, and the reason it’s uncomfortable is that I’m being dishonest. As much as I care about my friends and family, I’m not being true to myself if I’m spending $100 on a dinner I’d never go to if I weren’t forcing it. The good news is, we can celebrate AWAY from the fancy-restaurant scene! Technically speaking, the birthday boy shouldn’t be throwing his own party anyway. Could someone in the group gently take the party-planning reins way ahead of time and organize a potluck and game night instead? Maybe a picnic and group hike? If that fails, and your friend still insists on throwing himself a party (that everyone else pays for), then I think it’s legit to say, “I can’t make it this year. Money’s tight, because as you know I’m saving for a house (or whatevs).” If your friends don’t understand that and can’t support it, well… I hate to say it, but it may be time to bow out of the group a little bit and start hanging with folks who know how to party, Mustache-style! (I’ll bet some other folks in the group feel the same way, though, because it’s a little excessive to have a semi-blow-out bash for someone’s 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th, etc., bday.)

  • Erock January 17, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Ahh, MMM is correct again! Many years ago my dad told me that only people that eat and drink the most ever want to split a check, DON’T DO IT!!


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